Delusions of Grandma - Carrie Fisher
The thing about a Carrie Fisher novel is that they aren't really novels at all. They're stories of things that a scarred and quirky child of Hollywood has seen, done or wanted to do. Here, Carrie becomes Cora, a screenwriter whose romance to a nice-guy lawyer is doomed from the start but manages to survive as a safety net for a friend dying of AIDS and the, creates new life when Cora, er, Carrie finds out she's pregnant. Witty, quick and filled with heartache and faux self-awareness, it isn't literature. But the writing is clear, even if there isn't much to the plot. Even as interconnected stories, swipes and sorrows, it works well enough for what it is.
The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits- Emma Donoghue
Donoghue has been a favorite of mine since reading Stir Fry about a decade ago. Her writing is astounding, able to make simple everyday moments come alive on the page. True, you can practically hear her Irish cadence on the page. But it works, repeatedly, whether she is crafting a novel or one of her many collections of short stories.
This is the latter, a collection of her takes on historical moments like, yes, the woman who faked giving birth to a dozen dead rabbits. The history is quirky, but what makes the stories work are what serves the best historical writer well: the ability to weave a narrative around an event.
And here Donoghue is in prime form. Her imagination, for instance, tackles the historical fact that Mary Wollestonecraft worked briefly as a governess. In Donoghue's hands, the reason for her dismissal is told from one of her charges, a tomboyish and wilfull child named Margaret. Another historical fact: Margaret would grow up to befriend the daughter that Wollenscraft died giving birth to: Mary Shelley.
It is the mix of the imagination and reality and Donoghue's ability to write so intimately that brings these little scraps of history alive. I wouldn't have imagined that I would care about a trivial moment in history, when a drunken soldier is tricked into marrying a spinster. Or that I'd never heard of a religious cult leader who convinces her followers to fast for 40 days to prepare for End Times.
But Donoghue takes these obscurities of history and creates the sort of detail and reason that we all crave when trying to understand how or why something may have happened. Her imagination is so vivid, it becomes hard to believe the stories happened any other way.
The Willoughbys - Lois Lowry
This is it: the best book I've read all year.
Sure, it is technically for children. And one reason it's been sitting on my shelf for ages was its slender 176 pages seemed to be something I could put off, indefinitely.
Silly, silly Scoopgirl.
This wacky story of the four Willoughby children and their odious parents (don't fret; the book includes a glossary in the back with a delicious description of odious) is a brilliant and hilarious slam on all the convention's of old-fashioned children's literature.
This parody offers twist after twist: four precocious children who want to rid themselves of their parents, without knowing the parents are as eager to be done with the children. Throw in a nanny, a baby left on the doorstep, a wealthy recluse with a sad secret, a few background cats and you have yourself the best send-up of faux nostalgia out there.
Lowry is overt with some of it - such as the constant musing of what "old-fashioned" people might do next) but slyly includes social commentary on capitalism and family as well as outright silliness and charm.
Everything I've seen online confirms that this, like Lowry's most known work, is for children. But I think it's actually a book for adults, masquerading as kids' book. What a wonderful find.